So Long, Sweet Summer

As a teacher, summer has been over for about a month now. As a human being (and according to the calendar), the curtains of summer are drawing closed this Thursday.

Either way, I have some thoughts to share as the transition from summer freedom to autumnal mayhem continues to build (or begins, depending on which way you look at it).

This summer was great. I accomplished a lot what I set out to do (as seen here) such as traveling, developing my Stats course, taking pictures, and working out consistently.

This summer, I fell in love with lifting free weights. It was scary in the beginning as the free weights area is typically 95% dudes. But I love the freedom that it offers; I can do so many things with a set of dumbbells versus only being able to do one exercise at a time on the machines.

I got to travel quite a bit this summer, too. I began the summer going home to Western NY for our friends’ wedding and to see friends and family, then I went to the Poconos with my high school friends in July, and then Tom and I went to Virginia to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary all in one trip. We also spent the last couple weeks out with my in-laws in Long Island which is totally traveling and feels like a vacation. I went to the beach a couple times and hung out with friends quite a bit. [Check out my Instagram for pictures]

Volleyball started the day after my birthday and by then I was really excited to get back into having a set daily routine. The following week was the start of teacher meetings and classroom setup. I had been in my school at least 10 times over the summer to get work done, so it kind of felt as if I had never left. We then had students the week of Labor Day and that was a rush of stress and excitement for sure.

The following week (last week), we had 2 days of school and then we went on our annual retreat with all of the students. In past years, the 9th and 10th graders went to a Quaker conference and retreat center 3 hours north of the city while the 11th and 12th graders went to a summer camp 2 hours north of the city. My first year teaching at my school, I went with the upperclassmen, and last year I went with the lowerclassmen, so I had been to both places and had my opinions about both.

Last year, we all realized that there was no way we could continue going to the 9/10th retreat center because we just had too many people squeezing into the place. I was in a committee meant to plan the retreat and we decided that all four grades would go to the summer camp this year. I was pumped. I loved my experience at the summer camp and couldn’t wait to go back.

And this year’s retreat didn’t disappoint. It was frustrating and exhausting at times, don’t get me wrong; teachers spending 2.5 days with their students is not a bed of roses. But this place made for such an amazing time; from the ropes courses and the various sports courts/areas, to the delicious (in comparison to the retreat center) food, to the beautiful weather, and of course just being in nature, I had a fantastic time and can’t wait for next year’s retreat.

Retreat 2016
                               Post sunset first night; Sunrise second morning

This weekend was spent recuperating, catching up on sleep and alone time (with the exception of Tom), and preparing myself mentally and physically for the first full week of school. Not only do we have classes all 5 days (haha that sounds so dramatic but the past 2 non-full weeks have left me feeling totally wiped out) and I have 3 volleyball games to coach.

And as I’m sitting here writing this, I am in awe of how I am less anxious and worried about everything than I usually am this time of year. I tend to go through major problems this time of year: both of my Crohn’s flare-ups happened during this time of year, I went to a doctor for anxiety and sleep problems 2 years ago (my first year teaching full-time), and I just tend to have a low self-esteem regarding my teaching abilities and an overall low sense of self-worth during this time of year. It’s a lot, all at once, and I get a little [read: very] emotional when I’m tired.

And yet, here I am, feeling capable and ready to take on this week. I think it helps that I have become accustomed to working a bit on weekends: I have grown to like going to Starbucks for a few hours on Sunday mornings to get ready for the week and set my mind at ease while enjoying a PSL and a bagel.

>>Side note: I’m reading a book for school called Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do and it’s all about stereotype threat. While in line getting ready to order, I realized that I was feeding a stereotype threat as a white female ordering a PSL. I felt like maybe I shouldn’t order it because that would make others confirm said stereotype…but I didn’t care and ordered it anyway.<<

I hope to continue on with this feeling and not wake up at 2 a.m. with overwhelming anxiety such that I cannot fully fall back to sleep until my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. It happens sometimes.

I hope to continue to pump myself up and stay on top of things to aide in this general feeling of well-being and happiness.

I hope to continue making gainz in the gym and make it a priority even with school. I didn’t go at all this weekend because I pulled a back muscle (are you ready for this?) while pulling my shirt over my head to get dressed on the last day of the retreat.

Yeah. It’s embarrassing. I was up a bit early, getting ready for a morning run with the cross country team, and as I was pulling my shirt over my head, I felt a sharp pain, couldn’t breathe fully, and couldn’t move or find a comfortable position. I ditched the run, took some Aleve, and am still feeling a bit sore in that spot tonight. I’ll blame it on the uncomfortable mattress in the bunk and on playing tennis without warming up first. Getting dressed must’ve just exacerbated it.

So anyways, I hope you’re soaking up the last bits of summer (although, according to weather reports, we’ll be enjoying summer weather for at least another 2 weeks) and have a good transition to fall and all that it offers. Cooler weather. Sweaters. Boots. Excitement for the upcoming holidays. And pumpkin everything.

In my classroom: Ultimate Pi Day Week

As I write this, I am officially on spring break. That’s right, I don’t have to work for 2 weeks. Although, teachers’ work is honestly never done. I don’t just say that to sound philosophical or righteous. I say it because it’s 100% true.

During these 2 weeks, I will be entering grades and writing some comments about said grades for upcoming third quarter reports because they are due the Monday we come back from said break. I will be planning lessons that I will teach the week we return. I will be looking through student outlines about organic compounds for Chemistry. I will be grading a recent test I gave my Algebra I students. And so on, and so forth.

Then again, I don’t have to go to school for 2 weeks. As mentioned in my last post, I will be going out to Long Island today to see my in-laws and Tom’s cat, Finster. And that’s only for a couple days, which leaves me with a whole bunch of time to do whatever I want!

Finster and Holliday

Backing up, though, let’s talk about this week…

Monday was long. I was at school for 13 hours straight because we had an inaugural Language Festival at 7pm. It was fantastic. Students in Spanish and ASL (American Sign Language) classes prepared skits, stories, and songs via real-life interactions, videos, and writings. They did great and it was wonderful seeing our students do such awesome work. Great job Language Department!

That day I had started reviewing with Algebra I students for the functions unit and continued reviewing with Algebra II students for the linear inequalities unit. My plan, as long as everything went smoothly, was to give my Algebra I class their test on Friday (I know, awful teacher giving a test on the Friday before break) and to give my Algebra II class a take-home test to do over break (again, awful).

BUT Algebra I students were totally understanding, especially since they had a long period on Friday, so of course it wouldn’t take the entire 70 minutes, and once they all finished we would just relax on the day before spring break. And Algebra II students appreciated the ability to use notes (no classmates, other adults, or the internet) for this test because some of the material was very difficult.

So there.

Tuesday was fine, more review for those two classes, and I kept going with number bonds in MIEL. Everyone in the Math department met during lunch and we started really getting down and dirty with the logistics of our inaugural Pi Day celebration. We started planning a while ago, but this week was crunch time. We began delegating tasks, getting the big picture taken care of, and started getting some details worked out.

Wednesday: again, more review, more number bonds, and more meeting during lunch with Math department folk. Excitement was building – not only for spring break, but also for our Pi Day plans! I sent out an email to students about becoming Pi Day pie judges – it would cost $3 to be a judge and it would be a first come/pay, first served basis.

Thursday: you guessed it; reviewing and reviewing and number bonds. Thursday was our regularly scheduled time to meet during lunch as a department, so we figured we would get the rest of the details taken care of and be all set for the next day. But, instead, it turned into a meeting about next year’s classes and how many of each section would have to be created based on how many students would be going into each level of math. Something pretty shocking and bothersome came up about my schedule for next year, so that kind of threw off the rest of my day.

We ended up meeting again right after school to make last-minute plans before Friday came around, and we each had a job to do. We needed materials for pies to be thrown at teachers, we needed a plan for the pie-tasting competition, we needed some emails sent out, and we all needed to create our page of math tasks for each of our math classes. That night, I created my “Pi Day tasks” sheets, and baked two pies – pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate chip. I was super unsure about how they turned out because the filling seemed runnier than I remember it being when I made it with Mom as a kid. Hopefully that meant it would be more (ew) moist?

Friday: THE BIG DAY! I was so excited to see my Pi Day t-shirt in my mailbox, just in time for the festivities. Unfortunately, Friday was so nuts, I don’t have any pictures of said shirt! All of the math teachers either bought or made a shirt for the day, but I don’t think we got a picture of us at all! Sad.

Anyways, for my classes, Algebra I students took their test and we ended up with about 15 minutes left in the class, so we played “Man in a box”, the Quaker version of Hangman. They all seemed pretty confident, so we’ll see when I actually start grading them! Algebra II was really chill, even though we went through two word problems dealing with systems of linear inequalities to prepare them for the take-home exam. We had a few minutes left after we finished, so we watched “Mean Tweets” videos on YouTube.

MIEL students worked on more number bonds and then we went on a walk and talked about our spring break plans. My next period (time before lunch) I had a free/planning period, so I was racing around the school collecting pies people had baked so that I could set up the pie sale in the kitchen/cafeteria. We had a great spread – (from bottom L to R) chocolate cherry, pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate chip; (top L to R) a mixed berry yogurt-y one with a lemon-y crust on top (student-made), apple, black-bottom oatmeal, and another apple.

Students had been informed about this since the beginning of the week, so they were aware that if they wanted a slice of pie, it would cost them $3. In the email I sent out, it said each slice would be $3.14, but we would give them a discount for Pi Day and give it to them for $3. All money raised was going to an organization our school has been raising money for since February – Red Hook Rise. “Its mission is to provide sports, educational and physical fitness programs that empower and educate youth.”

Pies pies pies pies pies

So we had a lot of students come during lunch to buy pies, and thank goodness my colleague Jen came down to help because it was insanity with cutting and serving and taking money and explaining all the pies and preparing the plates for the judging later on. Overall, it was a success.

I missed most of my next period co-teaching because I was cleaning up and then was seeking a colleague’s advice on the situation that had come up during our math department meeting the previous day. I’m not going to lie, there were tears. As of right now, I’m hopeful that the situation will be worked out. Fingers, and toes, and legs, and eyeballs crossed.

THEN. IT WAS PI DAY TIME!!!! For those of you who have made it this far, thank you! Glad you made it! I would offer you a cup of coffee or tea, but this feature of teleportation is not possible. Yet. If you’re confused on what Pi Day is, let me briefly enlighten you. If you recall from your days of high school (and maybe even middle school) math classes, you may recall the number π (pi). It is an irrational number, meaning it is a decimal that goes on and on and on forever and ever without repeating. It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference and its diameter (circumference ÷ diameter) and there are a few fractional estimations, but they match up with a minute number of decimal places.

π = 3.141592653… Mathematicians (and now computers) have been able to calculate pi to trillions of decimal places. Every year, March 14 is considered Pi Day because March 14 = 3/14 is like 3.14. This year (technically today, Saturday, but obviously we had to do it Friday) was Ultimate Pi Day because not only would it be 3/14, it would be 3/14/15. And going further, at 9:26:53, it would be the absolute ultimate time on the ultimate day of pi. This exact sequence of this date and time will not occur again for 100 years. It is a once in a lifetime thing!

Now, going back to Friday, I ran down to the gym because I was one of the MCs. Once everyone came down, I began explaining to everyone what they would be required to do. They were to get into their math class groups and find the teacher they were assigned to. That teacher would have a folder with their tasks in it, so they were to complete as many of the tasks as possible in order to possibly pie a teacher. The teacher had an answer key but could not give them any help other than to tell them whether their answers were correct or not.

During the 10-15 minutes that they were all solving their problems, the math teachers set up the pie-ing station. We laid a plastic covering on the gym floor and started filling empty pie tins with Cool Whip. I also cut in every few minutes with a corny math joke to keep people entertained. Students started filing back in the gym, having answered the questions and/or realizing time was up. Then the pie-ing began.

Five of us teachers signed up to be pied – me, John (another math teacher), Vicki (Spanish), Will (music), and Kirk (Director/Principal). Three ponchos had been made out of some more plastic sheeting, so we took turns – John, Vicki, and Will stood in for 3 rounds of pie-ing, and then Kirk and I switched in and endured 4 rounds of pie-ing.

There were plenty of pictures and videos taken during this time, so here are just a few…

This first picture is a prologue to the video that comes next…

John in waiting

This first video is from Sue who got an amazing shot IN SLOW MOTION!!! This video shows John getting a pie straight in his face. This is actually round 3 I think, so this is the first pie that actually made it right on one of their faces.

 Thanks to Jeannine for the following picture of students who are totally ready to pie us:

Determination and Fear

And this one. It’s a gif, so you have to click on it for the full experience. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Pi Day gif - fear relief pie

This video was submitted by a student and it shows the two pie-ers totally cheating by coming right up to Kirk and I with their pies. This was the last (thank goodness) round of pies, so it ended on a messy note.

As we were cleaning up, students made an announcement about student government. I ended up getting a total of 8 students that signed up and paid to judge the pie-eating competition, so during this time those students tasted the pies and voted on their favorite. And guess who won? My pumpkin chocolate chip!!! Woot! I had whipped cream in my hair and on my clothes (and in my nose from that last pie) but I didn’t care.

Everything went as planned, although it was a bit hairy the entire time with last-minute hiccups, but it was a blast. Messy, yes, but the students and teachers alike enjoyed every second of it. Plus, we ended up raising about $80 for RHR! Not bad, not bad at all.

Overall, this week was beyond overwhelming, beyond stressful, but beyond fun, exciting, rewarding, and tasty (I got to eat a lot of pie and whipped cream). I have the best crew of teachers to work with and the best students to be pied by…although some of them are total cheaters. Now I’m off to go do anything I want for 2 weeks!!!!!